February 4th, 2006


(no subject)

Ah, it is very nice to have my own place. I'm settling in nicely, and in general, I'm quite happy with it. My only complaint is that storage space in the kitchen isn't as large as I'd like it to be, but it just means I have to most efficiently use the space rather than plonking stuff down wherever I feel is convenient. I can handle that easily. Tomorrow, as long as the weather is cool enough, I'll probably take a walk and explore the area - see how far I am from ferry and railway stations, and time how long my walk to university is. Goodness, I'm not looking forward to walking to classes on the days when Queensland really turns on the heat. Sometimes I wonder why I haven't applied to the University of Greenland instead.

On a totally different topic, I feel compelled to comment on the "Muhammad cartoons" controversy. Now, I know some people reading this are either Muslims or very close to Muslims, so I'd like to make it clear that I make my comments with the utmost respect. It's not my intention to belittle any side of the debate and I know the entire issue has struck some raw nerves in various quarters. Nonetheless, I think it has spiralled completely out of control and is being blown out of proportion. For those unfamiliar with the controversy, a Danish newspaper last year published a series of cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in an article about free speech, the relevance being that pictures of Muhammad are forbidden under Islamic law to avoid idolatry. These pictures have been reproduced in other magazines and newspapers in the West, where freedom of speech naturally protects the right of an artist to depict Muhammad, and it has caused considerable outrage from Muslims both in the West and Islamic-majority nations. Now, if you ask me, in the grand scheme of things, a few cartoons, while potentially offensive to adherents of Islam, are not the end of the world. Why not channel all this energy into solving a far more serious issue, such as the insane amount of deaths that occur all too often during the Hajj? I think avoiding 100 needless deaths is more important than burning the Danish flag.

The real issue at play here is the boundaries of freedom of speech. I very much believe in the rights of people to freely make whatever statements they like through all the forms of media (I obviously mean within reasonable bounds, excluding things such as defamation, so don't spring a pedantical point on me). Now, naturally, there is a very real possibility of offending someone, but in a secular society where everyone is allowed to freely choose their religion and all religions are granted equal and fair treatment, I don't believe any single religion should be allowed to dictate any law. In other words, as much as pictures of Muhammad are not permitted by Islam, they ARE permitted by secular law and Islam cannot be allowed to influence those laws for its own gain. If you don't like it, don't live in a secular society, it's as simple as that, and I think it's rather pointless to be outraged over what an independent newspaper printed in a foreign country (within reason - if they're printing slanderous lies about you, I could understand anger!). I'm sure that I could scour the papers worldwide and find statements or images offensive on a religious level to me, but I'm not going to start burning flags or boycotting products from the home country of the paper or make death threats. A prominent example is the infamous "Piss Christ" artwork. I find it tacky and I know many Christians who would consider it offensive, but if that's the work the artist wishes to create, that's his right and I have no legitimate basis upon which to stop him or inflict any kind of punishment on him for doing it.

So, ultimately, I believe the publication of the "Muhammad cartoons" is justified by freedom of expression, a law which should not be at the whim of religious doctrines, as that inherently negates it. I do not believe in deliberately offending people, but I also do not believe in censoring religious discussion and depiction in a secular society. As a matter of fact, I wonder if some dialogue of valuable substance could result from these cartoons if the hysteria over their sheer publication would calm down.

That's about it for now. Have a good one, folks!